Measuring Executive Power: Transcending the Presidential-Parliamentary Divide
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Department of Political Science, University of California, Davis
Most scholars classify democratic regimes according to three types, presidential, parliamentary, and semi-presidential, yet there is evidence that such a typology is empirically misleading. In a recent paper, Cheibub, Elkins, and Ginsberg (2013) explore the robustness of the tripartite classification system and find significant heterogeneity in structure and powers of the executive branch within each regime type. We suggest a new conceptualization of democratic governmental system that is agnostic to 'type' and introduce an original index of executive power for both heads of state and heads of government and provide data for 35 European constitutional arrangements. Using these data, we demonstrate the considerable degree of overlap between specific powers of heads of state and heads of government in semi-presidential and parliamentary systems, and we show that direct presidential election is not systematically related to presidential power in these cases. Finally, we demonstrate the greater explanatory power yielded by studying the impact of specific executive powers of head of state and/or head of government on political outcomes.
Josephine Andrews is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Davis. Her research focuses on democratic transition in postcommunist countries. While her early work focused on Russia (When Majorities Fail, Cambridge Univeristy Press), more recent research focuses on Central and Eastern Europe. She has written on party system institutionalization, legislative structure, and constitutional design. Her work has appeared in such journals as Electoral Studies, Comparative Political Studies, and the British Journal of Political Science. In addition to her ongoing research into institutional design and its implications for democratic transition, she is beginning a new project examining the limits of institutional design as an explanation for variation in EU law implementation across the new EU member states.